e.g. Nicholas Galanin: We Will Again Open This Container of Wisdom That Has Been Left in Our Care
<img class=”size-medium wp-image-11138″ src=”http://moa.byu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Galanin-Tsu-Heidei-I-02-300×200.jpg” alt=”Galanin-tsu-part-2″ width=”300″ height=”168″ /> Nicholas Galanin, <em>Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan (We Will Again Open This Container of Wisdom That Has Been Left in Our Care)</em>, digital video, 2006. Image courtesy of the artist.
<h3>June – September 2015</h3>
<h5>About the Exhibition</h5>
In the video series Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan (pronounced <em>soo HAYdee shoe GAK tu tahn</em>), performers dance to seemingly unlikely soundtracks, juxtaposed on the wall in black and white in balanced beats. One hears the video before actually seeing it, and the artist delights in the surprise of visitors as they encounter the paradox of performance and sound.
In Part 1, well-known contemporary dancer David Elsewhere “pops” to the traditional Tlingit song Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan, which translates to “We Will Again Open This Container of Wisdom That Has Been Left in Our Care,” the title for the video series. Song and dance have long been a part of indigenous culture and often play a central role in ceremonies and gatherings that cultivate relationships with families, friends, ancestors, and the supernatural world.
Part 2 features traditional Native American dancer Dan Littlefield performing a Raven Dance to a heavy electronic beat, a song composed by the artist and seemingly inspired by video games. The beautiful and intricate Eagle and Raven wall screen was carved by Galanin s uncle and resides at the Community House in Sitka, Alaska, Galanin s home town. The dancer performs a Raven Dance wearing traditional regalia and wielding a Raven Rattle, a representation of power and authority. The Raven is a prevalent symbol in Native American culture–a paradoxical figure that manifests as hero, trickster, creator, and perhaps most importantly for Galanin, transformer.
Until the 1960s, Native American Art, along with other indigenous art forms, was traditionally exhibited as romanticized anthropological artifact. Objects were viewed chronologically, geographically, and ethnographically, sentimentalized and defined by Western colonization as “the other.” Indigenous art was grouped as a whole and considered part of a traditional past that precluded change, adaptation, or individualism. In the present day, many artists assert their cross-cultural uniqueness through an exploration of past traditions, present influences, and future opportunities.
“Culture cannot be contained as it unfolds. My art enters this stream at many different points, looking backwards, looking forwards, generating its own sound and motion. I am inspired by generations of Tlingit & Unangax̂ [Aleut] creativity and contribute to this wealthy conversation through active curiosity. There is no room in this exploration for the tired prescriptions of the “Indian Art World” and its institutions. Through creating I assert my freedom.” -Nicholas Galanin
Hybridity is a propelling force in Galanin s work–an exploration of his traditional past melded with contemporary influences. Through transmutation and paradox, the artist invokes the historic and the now, integrating art and life as a bridge of new creation. In his own words, “It is not a rejection or an embracing; we can be whoever we want to be or choose, embracing ourselves.”
<h5>About the Artist</h5>
Nicholas Galanin was born in 1979 in Sitka, Alaska, of Tlingit and Aleut descent. From his youth, he apprenticed with his father and uncle, learning traditional Native American art techniques. He studied silversmithing at London Guildhall University, and then attended Massey University in New Zealand, where he received a Master s degree in Indigenous Visual Arts. Galanin s work has been exhibited in prestigious museums around the world, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Alaska State Museum; the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth; the American Museum of Natural History, NY; the National Gallery of Canada; the Portland Art Museum; the Kurumaya Museum, Japan; and many others. An edition of this work is owned by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.
<em>Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan (We Will Again Open This Container of Wisdom That Has Been Left in Our Care) Part 1 and Part 2</em>, digital video, 2006.